David Lobdell’s Fire Sculpture to be Featured at the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh
New Mexico Highlands University fine arts professor David Lobdell’s fire sculpture will be featured at the Beltane Fire Festival April 30 on the legendary Calton Hill in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Beltane Fire Society established its modern Beltane Fire Festival in 1988. The society selected Lobdell’s fire sculpture proposal for inclusion in the dramatic festival that attracts 12,000 people each year.
The festival is inspired by the ancient Scottish and Irish festival of Beltane, which celebrates May Day and the coming summer. It coincides with the age-old pastoral practice of moving livestock to their summer grazing land.
The word Beltane is thought to have derived from a Gaelic word meaning bright/sacred fire. The livestock would be herded between giant bonfires as a ritual of purification, and blessing.
“For me, this a life milestone to have my work at the Beltane Fire Festival,” said Lobdell, who has been on the Highlands faculty for 20 years. “There are two kinds of people: ones who are born knowing, and ones who die searching. I’m the latter. I try to follow opportunities and this is a great one.”
Lobdell has exhibited his iron art pieces across the United States, including a piece that is currently part of the sculpture garden at the Kemp Center for the Arts in Wichita Falls, Texas.
He has also exhibited his work in England, Wales and Scotland. He learned about the Beltane Fire Festival while on sabbatical in 2000 at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.
“When I heard about the Beltane Fire Festival, I knew I wanted to participate someday,” Lobdell said. “It’s based on an ancient tradition, but it’s a very contemporary festival. A lot of post-modern art has historical references.”
Lobdell’s fire sculpture design is 10-foot high steel frame arch that is fired by propane burners. The sculpture glows every color of the fire spectrum from deep orange to indigo. Onlookers can write a message and slip it into a small metal box on the frame, watching while the fire consumes the message, and the ashes float upward.
In February, Lobdell built a similar fire sculpture for the university’s biennial Iron Tribe iron art event that he founded and organizes. A steady stream of people lined up during the evening performance casting session for a turn at the message box.
“The idea of the box is to send messages into the cosmos using fire and written notes,” Lobdell said. “The work celebrates the power of fire to communicate.”
Lobdell will build his fire sculpture at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and assemble it onsite at Calton Hill.
For Lobdell, his own Scottish ancestry adds another dimension to his participation in the Beltane Fire Festival. His mother’s family hails from Inverness.
He raised the money for his fire sculpture materials and travel to Scotland by selling his art and teaching art workshops about metal coloration.
Lobdell said he will integrate his experience at the Beltane Fire Festival as a teaching tool in his classroom lectures at Highlands and in the art foundry. Over the years, Lobdell’s students have traveled with him to national and international iron art conferences.